Health & Spirit

Bad News, Guys

Scott LaFee on

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which are used in everything from pesticides and sunblock to plastic water bottles and non-stick pans, mimic sex hormones. That's not a good thing. One of the suggested harms is reduced male fertility.

A new study documents just how bad the problem has gotten. An international team of scientists sifted through research on sperm counts since the early 1970s -- more than 7,500 peer-reviewed papers. They narrowed their dataset to 185 relevant papers involving almost 43,000 men between the years 1973 and 2011.

They found that for men living in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, sperm counts have dropped precipitously, as much at 50 to 60 percent in just a

Too Good To Be True

Noticing an uptick, the Federal Trade Commission is warning consumers to avoid those annoyingly abundant offers of free trials for self-improvement products like teeth whiteners, hair conditioners and devices to tone and shape every visible part of the body. Apart from the fact they may not actually work, many of the products come with cancellation policies so onerous and complicated that you likely can't get out of them before being charged with the next delivery. Plus, a lot of unscrupulous companies hide charges in shipping and handling fees they tack on once you've given them your credit card information.

Body of Knowledge

A normally endowed person has eight fingers. Anatomically speaking, your thumbs are not fingers. On the other hand, all 10 of your toes are toes.

Life in Big Macs

One hour of water-skiing burns 408 calories (based on a 150-pound person) or the equivalent of 0.6 Big Macs.


3 million: Number of American adults living with epilepsy in 2017

2.3 million: Number in 2010

Source: Centers for Disease Control

Stories for the Waiting Room

Illinois has become the 48th and latest state to open its organ donor registry to 16- and 17-year-olds. However, because they are still legally minors, parents retain final decision about organ donation until their children turn 18.

Phobia of the Week

Anthophobia: fear of flowers

Never Say Diet

The Major League Eating record for ice cream is 16.5 pints in 6 minutes, held by Miki Sudo. For the record, the flavor was vanilla. No word on whether Sudo suffered a major league sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia -- the scientific name for an ice cream headache.

Best Medicine

Three questions for Dr. Baby, pregnancy therapist:

Q: Doc, should I have a baby after 35?

A: No, 35 should be enough.

Q: Do I have to have a baby shower?

A: Not if you change the baby's diaper very quickly.

Q: Where's the best place to store breast milk?

A: In the breasts.


"The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard."

-- American comedian Steven Wright

Medical History

This week in 1888, a baby incubator was first used in the U.S. to care for an infant at State Emigrant Hospital on Ward's Island, New York. Dubbed a "hatching cradle," it was occupied by Edith Eleanor McLean, who was born weighing just 2 pounds and 7 ounces.

Sum Body

Five things they put in food you probably don't want to know about.

1. Castoreum, which is a secretion of the beaver anal gland. It's used to add sweet flavoring to some drinks and foods, also in perfume.

2. Silicon dioxide or sand. It's an effective anti-caking agent that resists humidity, found in dry soups, shredded cheeses, salts and powered creamers.

3. Shellac, a secretion of the female lac bug, a beetle-like native of Southeast Asia. Mostly used as a varnish, but also as a finishing glaze on jelly beans, hard candies and sprinkles under the label "confectioner's glaze."

4. Titanium dioxide, used in sunscreens and as a white coloring in skim milk, candies and vitamins.

5. Carmine or cochineal extract, a centuries-old reddish food coloring extracted from crushed cochineal, a cactus-dwelling insect native to Central and South America.

Med School

Q: From where does the word "lung" derive?

A: From the German word lungen, meaning light. Together, a pair of adult human lungs weigh just 2.5 pounds.

Curtain Calls

Pope Adrian IV (c.1100-1159), the first and so far only Englishman to head the Roman Catholic Church, reputedly choked to death on a fly floating in his wine. More likely, the cause of death was choking due to quinsy or peritonsillar abscess, a complication of acute tonsillitis in which the throat becomes constricted by over-sized, pus-filled abscesses.


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